Sutil targeting first points of 2014 in Monaco

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Adrian Sutil has set his sights on scoring points for the first time in 2014 at next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The German driver moved to Sauber at the end of last season, and has since failed to finish inside the top ten. The team has encountered a number of problems with the C33 car, including a weight problem for the first four races.

For the Spanish Grand Prix, a significant upgrade package was promised that would alleviate much of these problems and bring the team back to form. However, Sutil and teammate Esteban Gutierrez were anonymous once again, finishing down in 16th and 17th place.

Nevertheless, Sutil is confident that he can break this duck at Monaco, one of his favorite circuits.

“The Monaco Grand Prix is a very nice event every year,” he said. “I really like the track. For us, the most important aspect will be that our car works well and we can achieve a good performance.

“My objective is to travel back home with some points in my pocket. Looking back, I have good memories from the races in Monte Carlo as I collected some points almost every year.”

Indeed, Sutil has scored points on each of his last three visits to the Mediterranean principality, making it one of his most successful circuits.

“Last year it was an exciting race for me which I finished in fifth position,” he said. “It is always a special grand prix, and I am looking forward to it.”

The 2013 race saw Sutil produce some fine overtaking manoeuvres that ordinarily are not possible around the tight and twisting streets of Monte Carlo.

He also impressed at Monaco back in 2008 when Force India was a backmarker team. In wet conditions, he had battled his way up to fourth place, and looked set to claim a famous result until Kimi Raikkonen ran into the back of his car at the Nouvelle Chicane.

Adrian will be hoping that he can re-find some of this form to finally get Sauber on the scoreboard in 2014 next weekend.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.